Rethinking Street Traders as a Promising Agent of Re-Empowering Labour Movement in Contemporary South Africa

Ercüment Çelik
  • Place of Publication: Johannesburg, South Africa

Conference paper highlighting the WCCA Campaign in South Africa. 7th Global Labour University Conference, ‘The Politics of Labour and Development’,28-30 September 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa.

This paper makes the argument that in order to remain relevant, the South African labour movement needs to find ways of engagement with new social movements, the unemployed, and the „new working poor‟. The street traders‟ movement is then examined as having potential to empower the labour movement in this context of social movement unionism. By examining the emerging links between the labour movement and new social movements, the paper asks which group – trade unions or social movements – do the street traders‟ associations fit into. It is argued that as „the movement of the marginalised labour force‟, they can be seen as part of both, and therefore offer great potential for social movement unionism.
The street traders‟ associations that are part of the study have been advocating their members‟ rights to trading by marching against police crackdowns on street traders and aiming to address local government. However, no official platform for representation has emerged. These associations have also formed networks with international movements through StreetNet. This paper brings to focus the World Class Cities for All campaign that has brought together trade unions, street traders‟ associations and other social movements.

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